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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Alice and the Cool Dudes

Alice and the Cool Dudes, at Barden's Boudoir, Dalston, May 14

Written by Gareth David.

It feels like a pilgrimage, like I’m on some kind of DaVinci Code quest. Potent truths that remain hidden from most around me will soon be revealed. The Band Before The Band I’m Here For churn out some unimaginative geezer-rock. Wearing a selection of Hoxton-twat-headgear and oozing the “Oi, oi!” flavour to entertain a herd of jolly boppers, they leave me cold. I’m not in the mood for pacy (yawn), exciting (yawn) rocking out (yaaawwwwn) tonight.

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I’ve been psyching myself up for a gig by Alice and the Cool Dudes. All else is distraction. Ever since Punk-Jazz emperor Seb Rochford enlisted her as the voice of his Fulborn Teversham project, Alice Grant has been one of my favourite singers in London. The soft end of her voice is all head-resonant, tender and earnest but never quite soothing. There’s always a dissatisfaction in there. When the lungs get involved too, it’s a shockingly obtuse cavernous roar, a cross between primal wheeze therapy and shouting yourself hoarse. The cusp of these two sounds tends to give the impression that her precious heart could shatter at any second. It’s beautiful.
But that’s just a voice, as it is used in a different band. How would the Cool Dude ethos differ from that of Teversham? And would the siren/banshee voice be the same? The moment had come, the previous band had removed all their pedals and their hats from the stage, and all that was left was a drumkit, a set of keyboards, and a bass. And so began a selection of songs that never got so weird you’d call it experimental, but never got so familiar that you could classify them. Among the most striking was Boobs, baroque in its harpsichord sound, baroque in its fingerwork, not so baroque in featuring a cockney sparrow singing about boobs and somehow basically being kind of a lovely pop ditty. There is top notch songcraft in this. Strong melodies, twists and turns, a beat-rest at the end of a verse in which Alice holds the “oo” of “boobs” for a crystal-clear couple of seconds. Mmmmm.

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And it gets even better. The gig progresses, and we are treated to Toes, a sway-friendly trombone waltz (that’s Joe the drummer’s other instrument). Then comes Changebrain, which is easily the catchiest tune on offer. Alice’s sequencer starts things off, then comes the hooky vocal, then the backing vocal, then the rhythm section builds it up, suddenly we’ve got a really tasty driving hit, yet still with it’s quirky authenticity, as Alice sings of wrapping dogshit in a Tesco plastic bag. This is also where bassist Ruth Goller (familiar to fans of Acoustic Ladyland) shines brightest. Her vocal lines are the perfect counterpart to Alice’s. It’s not just backing vocal, it’s a cleverly intertwining thread of its own. In the end sections, where it seems like all the preceding parts have come together in a rich ecosystem of tone and chord, it’s Ruth keeping it deep, reusing a previous vocal, then inventing a Ringo-style flat melodic version of the main line, and playing an inexplicably perfect bassnote at the same time. It all comes across as quite sweet and simple at first, so it’s ability to take you over is a proper thrill.
Finally, The Truth, a song that feels just as epic as the name suggests. A boomy tom-tom beat, and a thick, deep hammond provide the perfect backdrop to Alice’s consoling utterances of what feels like pity. Really, just go and listen to them do it.

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Returning to my stupid idea that this might need comparing to Fulborn Teversham, well, yes, it was stupid. There is a portion of common ground, but Alice and the Cool Dudes don’t need those shackles. The central motifs that make up Teversham are gone, and replaced by something which is more pure, or less diverse, depending on how you see it (and certainly less screamy). But either way, it’s no less playful, no shier about complexity, and no less true. For all their dryness, and stone-cold confrontational chutzpah, Alice and the Cool Dudes are the most intense, interesting, sincere, meaningful and promising new band in my life this year.
But there is something amiss down at Barden’s Boudoir tonight. And there are two possible solutions. The first to occur to me was that they could use a more intimate venue, maybe the Slaughtered Lamb or Cross Kings. I think most of us in the crowd were first-timers, and the message might have come across a bit more pokey without a sound system designed for noisy ragers, without a room designed for beerbottle dance moves. The other solution is the one I prefer though. They release an album, everybody in the kingdom buys and loves it, and then, when everybody knows what it’s about, a gig in Wembley even could not fail. For intimacy can take on huge proportions to the initiated.
Let’s be honest though, the Hoxton-hat brigade will probably beat them to it. Alas, there’s no justice in this cruel business. I’m off back to the bar for another lament of amaretto.

You can hear demos and find out about future gigs on the myspace.

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2 Responses to “Alice and the Cool Dudes”

  1. bluejayway says:

    Lovely review, I agree with everything you wrote about them. Bring on intimate wembley.

  2. CRUMPAGE says:

    Would love for you to you come tonight and see Alice and the Cool Dudes playing alongside Simon Bookish and Joni Davis – Coronary Crumpage @ The Montague Arms, New Cross!

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